NOTE: You will want to read this post whether you are indie or traditionally published or even just thinking about publishing. This is an important topic and one that is growing more concerning for ALL authors.
I received a very high compliment on my recently published book “Champagne and Lemon Drops”* over the weekend. It was pirated.
Yes, it really is a compliment because someone out there feels they can make money off my writing. Aw. Doesn’t that just give you the warm and fuzzies?
If that isn’t enough to carry you through here’s help…
What to Do if Your Book is Pirated
But first of all…
How to Know if Your Book Has Been Pirated
First of all, Google. Google all the time. Every day. The title, your name, and a line out of the book which is distinct. Google. Make sure you use their “Search tools” button and pick a timeline (learned that one from the savvy business woman and romance author Ruth Cardello who uses it to find blogs that have mentioned her or her book) so you aren’t always Googling the same stuff. Google, Google, Google.
Then go on Amazon and Google your name, Google your title. Amazon and Google won’t show you if someone uploads another version of your book on Amazon–at least it didn’t show me. (Later note: I was asked in the comments why I didn’t use Google Alerts–I do use them, but I find them highly unreliable. They miss hordes of mentions, so please don’t rely on them.)
How did I find out?
In my case, I posted my book late Friday (March 8th–but Amazon gave me the pub date of March 7th for whatever reason) on both Smashwords (free with no DRM) as well as on Amazon.com ($2.99–I plan to make it free in the future. I did not register Champagne and Lemon Drops in KDP Select nor Prime–their lending program). On Sunday, AQCrew, the administrators over at the writing community AgentQueryConnect.com, found my book on Amazon.com under two different ASINs. I lucked out. They recorded the pirated ASIN for me. Why does this matter? Because later it DISAPPEARED off Amazon.com when you searched for the title or my name. But not .ca nor .uk right away. Yikes! How else would you find this new, pirated version (which you can find by searching the pirate’s ASIN) which is enrolled in Amazon’s lending program (Prime) as well as their KDP Select program?
Why does that matter? Because Amazon will not go after the pirates for the money after they have paid them. When people borrow your book through Prime, someone gets paid. You or the pirate? In my case, it would have been the pirate. Plus, the pirates could have enrolled my book as free in KDP Select at any time. They don’t make money while it is free, but studies show a sales bounce after a book has been free–meaning an increase in sales when coming off free. Which would go to the pirate since their version is the enrolled one–although my version may also benefit from the bounce through ‘confused’ sales.
Another reason you need to search the heck out of it–Cali MacKay (the lovely lady who made my gorgeous cover above–sans eye patch) found her book on Amazon.com under her name, but with someone else’s cover (same book title). Her content. In her case, she found it because she noticed a sales spike and went to check it out.
In both of our cases, we initially thought it was a glitch. Then we realized our glitchy copies were actually pirated copies of our romance books because they held the Smashwords copyright page and we had not chosen Amazon in our distribution channels on Smashwords. (Evidently it is somewhat common for free books to be stolen from Smashwords and pirated onto Amazon.com.)
Okay. You now know the how and some of the why… next up… what to do.
What Do You Do If Your Book Has Been Pirated and How to Contact Amazon About Your Pirated Book
This was the hard part. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is this: TAKE IMMEDIATE AND DEFINITIVE ACTION. And be patient.
But don’t take book piracy lying down. Don’t pop off one form email from the Amazon site and call it done. Get the word out to people you know who might be buying your book. Here are a few things I’ve done. They are less than perfect, of course, because the pirated version is still lingering like a bad cough, but this is my first time through the wringer. Take this and make it better, my writing friends.
First of all, notify Amazon. I still haven’t quite figured out the best way to do this. But here are a few avenues to try. (Later note–definitely go through the copyright infringement link shown below.)
But before you contact Amazon, you’ll need some info. Go to the pirated version’s page. Copy that distinct URL. Take screenshots. Record the ASIN–you will NEED THIS. Very important. Record, record, record!
Now, scroll down to the very bottom of the pirated book page. Look for this:
Click on the last option about it violating copyright. This will take you to a page where there is a phone number hidden about 2/3rds of the way down. Call this number (later note: after you email them seems to be best) to get in touch with the Amazon legal department. Leave a message with all the information they ask for in the recording. As well, there will be a contact form you can fill out to email them–do this first. Remember, more information makes it easier for them to track things down. Don’t waste their time. Give them the pirated URL and ASIN, your email address, etc.
Now, the other big thing you can do I learned from romance author Elaine Raco Chase and that is through Amazon’s Author Central Help and Contact page. There is a lovely form there with drop down menus and one of them includes “remove book.” Click the applicable menu items and choose whether to either drop them an email or to ask for a phone call back–I recommend the phone call so you can get immediate action (even though their call back was down during my escapade–that could be an ‘out of country’ thing though as I am in Canada). Again, make sure you have your information handy. (Later note: I would still love to talk to a real person to figure out the ins and outs of this whole piracy thing.)
If you are with a traditional publisher, I would recommend you ask when (or even before) your book is released what to do in the event of your book being pirated. In other words, who do you contact? Again, more information is helpful. Keep records, and pass on as much info as you can if there is someone in the publishing house who deals with these issues.
What Else Can You Do To Beat the Pirates to the Cash Register?
Instead of twiddling my thumbs I also took other steps. (It made me feel as though I was doing something.)
Get on the Horn!
I tried contacting Amazon through their Facebook page (not recommended).
A ‘review/warning’ on the book’s sales page on Amazon is something both Cali MacKay and I tried. Not sure if it is wise, crazy, or even noticed. Warning: This review will likely also show up on your REAL book page so be careful. The good news is that you can delete it–but it will be removed from both pages. (Not sure how Amazon will feel about this, and I’m not convinced it was effective nor wise. But if you have a lot of sales coming in and the other book is showing up in the search, it might be.)
I also attempted to contact my readers in the following ways:
If I had a bigger reader mailing list (click to sign up!) I may have sent out a notice.
I posted a notice about the piracy and where my readers could get ‘clean’ and ‘unpirated’ versions of my book on my Facebook page and profile. In some cases this was actually my first notice of the book being out. GAH! Was I caught with my pants down, or what?
I also sent some tweets that said:
“Please don’t borrow Champagne & Lemon Drops on #AmazonPrime -it’s pirated. I’ll send you a #FREE #KINDLE of it. Tweet me 4 bk. TY.”
“There’s a false “Champagne and Lemon Drops” on Amazon which isn’t mine. Don’t buy that one! Buy the real deal: amzn.to/12Fxgk4”
DRM. I know you’re thinking it. Does it help? Does it slow down pirates who are too lazy to strip DRM (digital rights management–makes it hard to copy a file unless you have software that strips it)?
There are several minds about DRM, but basically the arguments fall into two camps: those who like it and those who don’t. People who like free stolen books likely aren’t going to buy your book anyway, but if they like your book they may buy the next copy or tell their friends who might purchase their copy. For the more honest folk, DRM can be a pain and hinder the ability to enjoy their purchase on whichever device they choose.
The real issue, sadly, seems to be with free (no charge) DRM-free ebooks on Smashwords. It’s just too easy to snag them and post them on Amazon in hopes nobody notices and they can cash in. 🙁 It is a bit of a catch-22.
How I Feel About Piracy–As of Today, Opinion Subject to Change!
I’m flattered. I’m flattered someone out there thinks we can make some money with my book. I mean, highest compliment! However, as of right now, I am a tiny bit disappointed Amazon isn’t a bit faster in taking down the pirated book (Later note: It took 24 hours for the pirated version to be taken down). True, Amazon could have been swamped with very important matters and I am sure they are working as fast as they can. (Someone has likened Amazon’s work to whack-a-mole with all this digital piracy.) And true, I could have been faster on the ball. But next time, I know what to do and which channels to take. And I hope my lesson here has helped you out so you can respond promptly and effectively if you find your content plagiarized.
BUT THE BIG THING IS THIS: Free advertising. I am planning for this book to go free everywhere once I stop dealing with pirates (arrrr!) and get on with my real book plans. I mean, seriously. They are getting my book into the hands of others. And yes, they might be making money off of Prime, but they might also be helping boost my book’s rankings on Amazon which helps keep it visible and get my name out there. How much are they making? Not that much probably. And at the end of the day, this first book’s goal in the series is to build an audience. Plus, according to section 5.7 in the KDP agreement, I *might* be able to get the royalties owed back to me. We’ll see. Amazon and I are still emailing.
(Later note: The fake book is now down! It took around 23-26 hours since the first request for the book to be removed was sent. Woot! Go Amazon copyright department! You rock. Thank you. And thank you for all the support from my writer friends.
Later, later note: The pirated version of Champagne and Lemon Drops was not sold according to Amazon’s records. However, I haven’t discovered if it was borrowed on Prime–I would still love to know (not for the money reasons, merely for interest’s sake). In the end, I feel that Amazon did a good job and I’ve discovered they have various controls in place against piracy. For example, Cali is attempting to update her book (the one that had been pirated three times in one week) and Amazon is asking her to prove that she is the copyright holder.)
How do you feel about digital piracy or book piracy? Has your book been pirated? What did you do? Do you have tips or suggestions? Leave ’em in the comment section!
Tweet this and help others: Help my book has been pirated! What to do if your book has been pirated on Amazon.
** By the way, if you would like to get a nonpirated version of the book Champagne and Lemon Drops (book 1 in the Blueberry Springs Series) you can get it on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, as well as Smashwords with more places coming as soon as Amazon and I snag these wiley pirates!